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Survey shows only 35% of hybrid car owners would buy one again

Consumer Reports News: April 09, 2012 04:38 PM

Only 35 percent of hybrid vehicle owners choose to purchase a hybrid again when returning to market, according to Polk, an auto industry data provider and research company. This rate drops to less than 25 percent if Toyota Prius owners are removed from the sample.

The analysis was based on purchase behavior from 2008 through 2011. It also reveals that while repeat hybrid purchases may be less than one might think, the customers were often loyal customers for the brand. For instance, 60 percent of Toyota hybrid owners bought another Toyota. Likewise, 52 percent of Honda owners bought another Honda.

Polk posits that hybrid loyalty indicates people are looking outside this technology for alternative solutions to high gasoline prices.

Based on recent Consumer Reports surveys, it is clear that drivers are feeling the pain at the pump and are open to myriad solutions. In a survey from last November, 83 percent stated they would pay extra for a fuel-efficient car to save in the long run. And 56 percent said they will consider an electric or hybrid for their next car, but only 16 percent are thinking about a diesel. But, as the Polk survey suggests, consideration is different than people taking action.

As operating costs increase, many car shoppers may be considering fuel-efficient choices from among those models with traditional powertrains. Often, a thrifty four-cylinder model can deliver impressive fuel economy for thousands less than a hybrid, especially if getting the hybrid powertrain requires an expensive, premium trim level. If saving money is a key motivator, look at CR's owner cost information available on our model pages to see the complete picture, factoring depreciation, fuel economy, maintenance, repair, and insurance.

We have also seen in surveys that car-buyer's needs change over time. For instance, a family that loves their Prius may want an SUV or minivan next time. And although more hybrid models continue to proliferate, there are limited choices in many popular categories. A person may want a small hybrid SUV, but with the demise of the Ford Escape Hybrid, at the moment, there isn't one.

More choices will ultimately allow buyers to satisfy their dynamic needs. But as our tests have shown, if saving money (rather than specifically fuel) is your goal, there are many efficient, small cars available that have performed well in our tests and promise better-than-average reliability. (See which hybrids and diesel save money.)

Learn how to get the most mpg now in our fuel economy guide.

Jeff Bartlett

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